Zuckerberg changes Facebook’s goals and shuns publishers from News Feed

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 12 January 2018
Mark Zuckerberg

In a move that will likely enrage publishers, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, has confirmed that the platform will reduce publisher content in the News Feed.

Instead it will prioritise the posts and content that people share personally.

He says it is reshaping the objectives of its product managers away from content, towards more purposeful, personal interactions.

In a blog post today he confirmed: “I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

It harks back to Facebook’s original purpose and function, which was a peer-to-peer platform where college kids talked to their friends and shared photos. While the move might go down well with users, it’s the latest example of  a change to the algorithm that will upset the apple cart for many publishers who rely on Facebook for distribution, eyeballs and engagement.

Zuckerberg describes the change as one made for the well-being of its users.

The media boss says that feedback from its community has shown that people think brands and media are “crowding out” personal moments on the platform.

Zuckerberg also implies in the post that “passively reading articles or watching videos” on the platform “may not be as good” for people's well-being as connecting with friends.

See: Facebook isn't the be all and end all

Facebook says its change in direction is based on research about how and why people use Facebook, but it’s something that businesses whose entire model is built around their ability to connect with customers on Facebook will find hard to swallow.

Publishers have also been responsible for bringing audiences to Facebook and keeping them there, for which the platform has then sold millions of dollars of advertising against over recent years.

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness,” he says.

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being.” 

"It's easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do - help us connect with each other."

Zuckerberg says it will take months for the changes to roll though, but that people will soon start to see more posts from friends and family in their Newsfeed and  fewer from businesses, brands, and media.  

Facebook admits it will sacrifice engagement and time spent on the platform, but believes the quality of time spent will improve.

It remains to be seen how it will affect Facebook’s numbers and how that in turn will impact its ability to sell advertising against its users.

The move had been rumoured for some time and as a result of previous shifts in the Facebook algorithm many publishers have already started pivoting their strategies away from such heavy reliance on Facebook. But it will be a blow with many businesses materially impacted by the change.

More to come with reactions from Australian publishers and media experts on the impact of this shift next week. If you have a view you'd like to share, contact LindsayBennett@Yaffa.com.au 

 Here is is in full:

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.
We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.
But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content -- posts from businesses, brands and media -- is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
It's easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other.
We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being. So we've studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.
The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good.
Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.
Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.
At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together -- whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world -- we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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